Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Kudos to the Biden Administration: Musk’s Starlink is legally permitted by the US Government to supply internet to Iranians.
Friday, January 21st, 2022
Inverse is a beautifully designed web magazine [should Web be capitalized?], a Joshua Topolsky joint alongside a stable of others that I’ve noticed are designwise a cut above what else is out there — Input, which is similar to Inverse and actually the two seem to unhelpfully overlap — and W, a women’s fashion mag also published by Bustle Digital Group that I normally wouldn’t have noticed but am enjoying the design.
Yet outstanding web artisanship notwithstanding, can a magazine survive if it feels ultimately corporate, which seems a danger when the job title changes from co-founder or Editor-in-Chief to Chief Content Officer, Culture & Innovation?
In Inverse the writing itself feels pretty generic, less tours-de-force by expert than relentless plodding coverage. Article after article appears on a single scroll; you never reach the end of the page, and although this is convenient, I’ve never liked this innovation, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted by it.
While the pages as a whole look great, the fact is I am not reading the articles; the san-serif body text looks like it’s less to be read than looked at. Also, it’s too far to the right on the screen. And there’s a little wobble.
From the case study by web shop Code and Theory, it appears Input and Inverse have been merged onto the same content management system, and Input was Topolsky’s technology mag baby but BDG also acquired science and entertainment site Inverse from elsewhere. No wonder the overlap.
They have a rationale for the infinite scroll:
In a world where scrolling through feeds feels second-nature, we designed Input and Inverse without traditional homepages. Upon landing on inputmag.com or inverse.com, readers see an infinite scroll of stories. Each story offers a snippet—the headline, maybe a quote, or a key stat, along with some information. The reader can then expand that story in the feed to read more, or continue scrolling.
When one story finishes, users scroll right back into the infinite stream of stories.
The stream can also be interrupted by rocks—curated content modules, e-commerce breakers and other fun interactive moments for the reader.
Maybe I’m unrepresentative of what most people like to do on the web, but I think this approch misguided. On an infinite scroll, reader becomes skimmer. Now maybe skimming is what you actually want readers to be doing on your site, not really reading the articles, thereby perhaps seeing and acting more on ads? All well and good, but skimming is less valuable and satisfying than reading an article set in a serif where the page ends when the article ends. If I read a piece, I want to feel I’ve read a piece.
One more thing: none of the subtitles has been informative but neither are they witty, rather they demonstrate that what’s leading is design not content.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2021
The Man with the Golden Gun
Surely I’ve read The Man with the Golden Gun before, given that this mangy old paperback has been on my bookshelves since 2006? Perhaps, but I remember nothing.
Some scenes that seem somewhat vivid for now:
- The middle: James Bond meets kind-hearted Tiffy, the manageress of a Jamaican cathouse, before finding Scaramanga, who promptly does something totally awful
- The end: As Scaramanga’s temporary assistant, James Bond machinates and maneuvers around the underfunded hotel that the assassin is building
- The beginning: M ruminates over his decision to send Bond after Scaramanga
Right now the best part seems to me M’s internal monologue after a brainwashed James Bond, back in London after imprisonment in Russia, fails to assassinate him at his desk (a glass screen plummeting down from the ceiling to block the poison Bond has fired, foreshadowing the spirit of gadgetry to come in the movies).
In wake of this domestic excitement, as M calls it, he decides to send Bond after Scaramanga, who has killed some British agents, figuring the Double-O will either succeed in killing the fellow and thereby redeem himself, or conveniently die trying.
Chief of Staff Bill Tanner thinks this cold-hearted, as Scaramanga is so dangerous. M takes a solitary lunch at his club Blades, troubled presumably over both the event and his subsequent decision, but we are only privy to his thoughts once on the ride back to the office, when he reassures himself that his decision really was wise — indeed he almost can’t believe that his instant instinctual choice stands up so well to scrutiny. This is our glimpse at leadership. The rest of the novel — and the entire series — is our exploration of manliness.
In the movie we lose this brief inner turmoil from M, but we gain a more impressive (though not sufficiently so) Scaramanga in Christopher Lee, who is as suave as Fleming’s assassin is lunky; and we get fabulous Thailand instead of, yet again, Fleming’s Jamaica. To make a long story very short, we’re rather missing Nick Nack.
Sunday, December 5th, 2021
Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End
The invaluable Atul Gawande crafts a sensible, anecdote-rich picture of the current state of elder care.
He begins by telling the somewhat idyllic-sounding tale of how his own grandfather lived into old age back in India, contrasting this with the increasingly institutionalized way that aging is handled in more modern society. Surprisingly, he points out that anyone who can abandon this multi-generational way of living does so — it’s no paradise.
Gawande is always a deft, humane companion, one of our great medical writers, and if nothing else, the various ways he recounts people’s health failing and ultimately dying brings to the fore what we should keep in mind.
He wants people to be more mindful, prepared and aware of the limits of medicine, which he believes will make them less likely to make the mistake of over-treating, noting a number of times that relatives remain depressed and traumatized by a loved-one’s death much longer when they have chosen to keep them alive using invasive treatments.
He also notes his new understanding of hospice treatment, not that is no treatment, but that the goal of life duration stops being the be-all-and-end-all.
I don’t particularly want to revisit this well-structured book, but it’s a necessary ordeal.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2020
The first lab-grown chicken meat will be served at a Singapore restaurant this weekend!
Saturday, August 15th, 2020
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Jordan Peterson has huge charisma, period, and his recent travails serve to render him even more human. His efforts to ground our current unmoored times (the chaos referred to in the title) in the fertile garden of our intellectual and spiritual heritage (the curative order) are the work of the angels.
The first of his 12 Rules for Life is Nietzschian, an evolutionary biological backgrounder for the maxim to fake it till you make it. The second is Rousseauian: we must love ourselves with amour de soi rather than amour-propre. But the whole thing — and particularly this second rule — is peppered with discussion of founts fundamental to me — Genesis, Taoism, Jung — so that the book feels like it fell out of my own mind, albeit a more disciplined, erudite, deeper version.
Either because of this over-familiarity or because the book is in fact junk food, I cannot remember anything of it as I revisit a few weeks later to write this. Is Peterson merely an Alain de Botton of the Right, a popularizer / informal codifier of what every self-respecting Westerner already knows? Either I need to pick up the book and start again, or perhaps stop reading everything else and get back to the Bible, Plato and Aristotle.
Wednesday, April 1st, 2020
Devi Sridha, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, had been trying to sound the alarm about the British herd-immunity approach with pieces such as “Britain had a head start on Covid-19, but our leaders squandered it”.
Monday, March 9th, 2020
Sunday, March 1st, 2020
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of an Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
Brent Schlener and Rick Tetzell
Although the simple thesis gets repeated interminably, nonetheless it’s a nice one: that Steve Jobs’s greatness stems muchly from his constant becoming, constant learning, constant trying to overcome himself (hence the title, which can be read as descriptive).
It’s great to be in his company, which you feel you are, as one of the authors was himself repeatedly so for decades.
One thing new to me was Pixar’s role in maturing Jobs; we don’t often read about who and what shaped the shaper.
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
This Gates Foundation presentation on global inequality is clear, straightforward, well-written, nicely illustrated with animated graphs, and surely worth the time of anyone who can access it.
Sunday, May 26th, 2019
Goodbye, Judith Kerr, goodbye!
Sunday, June 17th, 2018
Michael Chabon on Finnegan’s Wake .
As my year of diving languorously into the murky waters of the Wake wore on, I came to feel that it was this failure, this impossibility, this grand futility of the Wake, that constituted its secret theme, its true aboutness.
Sunday, May 20th, 2018
The Closing of the Hi-Gloss Colonel of American Letters Tom Wolfe’s Eyes. The New York Times obituary by Deirdre Carmody and William Grimes.
Sunday, April 1st, 2018
What did Jews tend to die of? The entry on morbidity in the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906.
Saturday, August 12th, 2017
On golf, drunk driving in Phoenix, and “the hillbilly passover Seder”: Alice Cooper eulogizes his good friend Glen Campbell.
Sunday, June 11th, 2017
This fresh Los Angelino perspective on Frank Lloyd Wright tries to build the case that the somber Mayan style of the four homes he built in the city reflects the devastation of the mass murder at Taliesin a few years earlier.
Friday, January 6th, 2017
Thank you, Evelyn Gordon, for providing some clarity for those now afar over why so many Israelis are supporting Elor Azaria, convicted of manslaughter for killing subdued terrorist Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif.
Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
At last — birth control for rats! A Long Read in The Guardian.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
Published in 1976, the themes nonetheless feel contemporary some 40 years later: environmental destruction, economic inequality, social alienation, childlessness. It’s all very naturalistic. We never encounter any aliens because they are long gone, and we don’t understand their amazing technological artifacts at all. And the people are in constant emotional turmoil.
Saturday, March 19th, 2016
Max Edwards, a 16-year-old writing in The Guardian. What a dude. [Update 8 days later: the man is already gone.]
Monday, March 7th, 2016
Eddie was more than a hero, Mrs Meechum. He was our friend.
Claire Underwood in House of Cards
Friday, February 5th, 2016
Thinkers remember Marvin Minsky at Edge.org.
Monday, January 18th, 2016
A bit of a fun mindbender. Queen’s Greatest Hits performed by what I guess is a Beatles tribute band using the latter’s idioms. Full album.
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
The conclusion of this peer-reviewed scientific article on sauna: “Increased frequency of sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of SCD, CHD, CVD, and all-cause mortality.”
Monday, August 18th, 2014
Despite it all, Israelis must own this:
B’Tselem’s list of Gazans killed at home during Operation Tzuk Eitan.
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
Not only isn’t the Israel Broadcasting Association listing the names of the child fatalities from the Gaza bombings but refusing to let B’Tselem pay for an ad doing so. And the Attorney General has upheld the decision. This seems to me a mistake. We must fully own these deeds.
Monday, April 28th, 2014
Clap along if you feel like steering wheels are uncouth (via DrudgeReport).
Monday, August 12th, 2013
Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University serves the world’s first non-lethal hamburger.
Friday, March 8th, 2013
Surely the definitive article about internet wunderkind Aaron Swartz. Only eating white or yellow food seems a glaring sign that not everything there was quite right.
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest waxes catholic and sensible on the runaway American health care system — or, more accurately, disease repair system.
Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
Chart showing cancer rates around the world.
Friday, August 17th, 2012
BBC presenter Ben Fogle’s eulogy of his black labrador. This dog angel helped him win his fame, fortune and hot wife. Commiserations.
Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Terrific humanistic piece by David Brooks using current presidential candidate bromides as a jump-off point.
Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
From the comments section: “I feel sad that a supposedly respectable publication would allow a disturbed person to humiliate themselves by publishing a rant as perverse as this.” ‘Breaking Bad Karma: How the cancer victim at the center of the AMC series justifies my skepticism of Holocaust survivors’ by Anna Breslaw. [via Commentary]
Sunday, July 15th, 2012
Sunday, July 1st, 2012
Excerpt from Nora Ephron’s frank and down-to-earth essay on aging.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Wild city: On the night shift: Bangkok’s body collectors by Al-Jazeera. Looks like it’s mostly motorcycle accidents, or should that be mortocycle.
Saturday, May 19th, 2012
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
“ A world that places any value on the idea of universal human rights
should no longer overlook North Korea’s enormities. ” —The Economist
Saturday, February 18th, 2012
Friday, December 16th, 2011
Monday, December 12th, 2011
Hitchie on Nietzsche: Am I Really Stronger? [link broken]
Thursday, December 1st, 2011
A review of some recent books on death.
Sunday, November 27th, 2011
David Brooks on Charlie Rose discusses the new political schism in America, the recent rise of narcissism in the culture, and some general trends in the thousands of life summaries he’s solicited from readers over 70.
Friday, October 21st, 2011
Dead. Qua-daffy. The NYT’s potted (and potty) history. “By the time he was done, Libya had no parliament, no unified military command, no political parties, no unions, no civil society and no nongovernmental organizations.”
Monday, September 19th, 2011
Spengler: the “new, apocalyptic tone” in the Middle East is due to Egypt’s chronic unproductivity.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
Sunday, June 12th, 2011
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010